The expression “Hindu Undivided family” on dissection consists of three words namely …
(ii) Undivided and
Each word has a meaning of its own and it is very important for understanding the concept of the HUF.
The Hindu Religion according to the ancient scripts is believed to be over 8500 years old. The root of the Hindu religion is Sindhu or Indus valley civilization in the Indian subcontinent. Hindu religion is also known as “Sanatan Dharma” meaning a religion which is eternal or which always existed.
The word Hindu connotes that essentially a HUF can be formed only by the followers of the Hindu Religion and no other religious community like Muslims, Christians etc can form a HUF: Broadly speaking in the Indian context Bengalis, Marwaris, Marathis, Punjabis, Telgus, Tamilians etc who are Hindus and Jams, Sikhs, Buddhists etc , can form a HUF. The Dictionary meaning of the word Hindu is one who professes Hinduism particularly Aryans of India and it is the religion of the majority of the Indians. A Hindu is an adherent of Hinduism, the predominant religious, philosophical and cultural system of Bharat (India). The word Hindu was originally a Persian word for “river-dweller” i.e., “someone who lives around or beyOnd the river Indus”, and meant any inhabitant of Bharat, or the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism is basically ‘pantheism’, a belief that God exists in everything in the universe.
The meaning given hereinabove is the general meaning used ‘in day to day parlance. However, to understand the concept of HUF in the light of taxatiOn, it is important to understand the meaning
of the word Hindu as given in the vaiious Acts. The definition of the word Hindu is though not available in the Hindu Succession Act, Section 2(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 states that it shall apply to any person who is a Hindu, Buddhist, lain or Sikh by religion. It also applies to any person who is a convert or reconvert to the said religions but not to a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion.
In the case of CWT vs R. Sridharan, (1976) 4 SCC 489, the Apex Court had considered the definition of term “Hindu” and observed that it is a matter of common knowledge that Hinduism embraces within itself so many diverse forms of beliefs, faiths, practices and worship that it is difficult to define the term “Hindu” with precision. Thereafter it observed as follows in the context of the meaning of the word “Hindu” at Para 17.
17. It will be advantageous at this stage to refer to page 671 of Mulla Principles of Hindu Law (Fourteenth Edn.), where the position is stated thus:
“The Word ‘Hindu’ does not denote any particular religion or community. During the last hundred years and more it has been a nomenclature used to refer comprehensively to various categories of people for purposes of personal law. It has been applied to dissenters and non-conformists and even to those who have entirely repudiated Brahminism. It has been applied to various religious sects and beliefs which at various periods and in circumstances developed out of, or split off from, the Hindu system but whose members have nevertheless continued_to live under the Hindu law and the courts have generally put a liberal construction upon enactments relating to the personal laws applicable to Hindus.”
b) “Undivided” means that which is not divided or that which is united or joint or common in mess or income.
c) The word “family” denoted a group of persons normally Parents, Children forming household, Set of Parents and Children, all descendants of common ancestor. In simple language or the plain meaning of the word family means more than one person.
The Supreme Court in C. Krishnaprasad vs CIT (1974) 97 ITR 493 observed: “Family” always signifies a group. Plurality of persons is an essential attribute of a family. A single person, male or female, does not constitute a family. A family consisting of a single individual is a contradiction in terms, an entity distinct and different from an individual. Assessment in the status of a Hindu undivided family can be made only when there are two or more members of the Hindu undivided family”. An unmarried person though receiving ancestral property on partition would continue to be assessed as an Individual. However, on marriage with addition of wife would be assessed in the status of HUF.
Thus, it follows that a HUF is an entity consisting of a Hindu family, all of whose members are descendants of common ancestor. The word descendant has been defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “One who descends, as offspring from an ancestor”. Thus it is essential that all the members of a HUF are formed of a Common ancestor i.e., the children of same parents or grand parents.